Kelly, Edward (DNB00)

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KELLY, EDWARD (1854–1880), bushranger, was the eldest son of John Kelly, a convict, who having served a term of fifteen years in Tasmania, for killing a man in a faction fight at Belfast, went to Victoria and married there in 1849. He died in 1865, leaving his widow with three sons, Edward, James, and Daniel, and three daughters. From early boyhood the three sons were in continual trouble for horse-stealing, and Edward underwent a sentence of three years' imprisonment. In April 1878 a party of constables arrived at their house, then near Greta, to arrest Daniel on a charge of horse-stealing. The Kellys showed fight. Edward shot one of the constables through the arm, and their mother knocked him down with a shovel. Eventually Edward and Daniel escaped and took to the hills; the mother, her son-in-law, and another man who was with them were captured and were sentenced to three and six years' imprisonment. Two other men, Byrne and Hart, now joined the Kellys, and for the next two years they were the terror of the country, especially affecting the borderland of Victoria and New South Wales, whose governments jointly offered a reward of 8,000l. for their apprehension. Some of their achievements read almost like romance. On 11 Dec. 1878 they went into Euroa in Victoria, made prisoners of every one likely to offer any opposition, and gutted the bank, carrying off money and notes to the value of nearly 3,000l. Two months later they visited Jerilderie in New South Wales in the same manner, overawed the residents, numbering three hundred, plundered the bank of about 700l., and held the town for two days. Their reckless audacity, their good fortune, and the fact that their murders were principally confined to policemen, their robberies to banks or government property, obtained for them some popular sympathy, and they seem to have had no difficulty in obtaining provisions and intelligence in their hiding-places in the mountains.

They were at last, on 27 June 1880, found in an ‘hotel,’ a wooden shanty not far from Beechworth. The house was surrounded by a strong force of police, was riddled with musket bullets, and finally set on fire. The whole of the gang was there killed except Edward, who was outside and might have escaped, but that, with a courage worthy of a better cause, he refused to desert his brothers and comrades. In attempting a diversion from the rear he was severely wounded in the arms and legs, and made prisoner. It was then found that both he and the others had covered their bodies with rudely forged plates of iron, weighing close on 100 lb. for each man. Edward was sent to hospital, and on his recovery was tried at Beechworth. He was convicted, and was hanged there in October 1880.

[The Last of the Bushrangers, an Account of the Capture of the Kelly Gang, by Francis A. Hare, superintendent of the Victorian police (with portraits), 1891; History of the Kelly Gang of Bushrangers, Melbourne, 1880, a coarsely printed pamphlet, mostly made up of extracts from the Melbourne Argus and other newspapers, and illustrated with very rudely executed portraits. Thomas Alexander Browne, who writes under the pseudonym of Rolf Boldrewood, adapts many incidents in the career of the Kellys in his work entitled Robbery under Arms, 1888.]

J. K. L.